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Entries in Thanksgiving (17)


Balance with Pie

Every time I'm looking for a life metaphor, I turn to pie. Dessert pies, fruit pies, pizza pies, shepherd's pies...there's something about the filling and container — separate but harmoniously working together — that acts as a vehicle for me to understand where I'm going, where I've been and where I'm at.

And where I'm at feels a little cobbled together right now — kind of like this specific pumpkin pie I'm bringing to you today (in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving).

This pumpkin pie represents balance. Right now I feel like I'm performing some kind of balancing act. I'm sitting (metaphorically, yet again) on a fence. One foot is on one side of this fence, where exists my "old" or normal way of life. The other foot is dangling into new territory.

I'm scared of this new territory. I don't know what's down there. So, with this pie, I relied on something I knew that works. Something familiar: butter. I made a butter crust.

And then, for the filling, I threw caution and probiotic yogurt into the mix for the "new" me filling. Daring! And weird. And potentially gross and terrible. But, honestly, the result was delicious.

And so I sit here, eating my balance pie, thinking maybe this fence isn't such a bad place to be...for now.

Yes, I feel unstable and uncertain about my direction. But maybe I don't have to give up everything old (BUTTER!), but can take what works (BUTTER!) and bring it with me into whatever is waiting on the other side.

Now, if I could just get down....

Want some of your own balance pie? Here's how to make it. Feel free to improvise...that's what this is about.

For the Crust:

1 cup all purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup coconut sugar (you can use regular sugar)

1 stick of butter

2 eggs

2 egg yolks

1/4 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp balsamic glace (optional)

For the Filling:

1 small roasted sugar pumpkin, yielding 2 cups of pumpkin puree

3 eggs

1/2 cup light brown sugar

1 cup plain kefir or drinkable yogurt 

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cardamom

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp allspice

pinch of salt

1 tbsp vanilla extract or 1/2 of the insides of a vanilla bean

2 tbsp rum or bourbon (optional)


For the crust:

In a food processor, mix together the flour, sugar and butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. I like to cut the butter into pieces before I add it to the food processor. This allows it to blend more easily.

Pour this mixture into a large bowl and form a well in the center. Into this well, add the eggs, egg yolks, salt and balsamic glace.

A note on the balsamic glace: This is optional. I was looking for something to add a bit of sweetness, but also a touch of a bite. I also wanted something sticky. Glace is very thick - almost like molasses. In fact, molasses would be a good substitute if you don't have glace. You can make your own glace with balsamic vinegar. Just simmer 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar on your stove top until only 1/8 cup remains. Ta-da! Glace.

Incorporate the wet ingredients into the dry until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap. Form it into a ball and wrap it up. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour before using.

Meanwhile, make the filling:

If using a sugar pumpkin, roast it in the oven. Heat your oven to 400°F. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the guts and seeds. Hang on to the seeds to roast them later on if you like!

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the pumpkin halves, cut sides down on the sheet. Roast for about 35 minutes or until the pumpkin is soft and the skin starts to peel away.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven and allow it to cool. Then peel away the stem and skin. Place the pumpkin meet in a large bowl and mash with a whisk.

Increase the heat of your oven to 450°F.

In a food processor or with a handheld mixer, beat the eggs and butter until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Stir in the pumpkin purée, spices, salt and mix thoroughly.

Add the kefir (or yogurt), rum, and vanilla and mix. If the filling seems too dense, you can add more yogurt 1/4 cup at a time until you achieve your desired consistency. It should look and feel like cake batter.


Roll out the refrigerated crust on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin. If using mini pie tins, grease them with a little cooking spray. If you're using a large pie tin or spring form pan, line it with parchment paper.

Place the rolled out dough into your pie molds. Fill the molds to the top with pumpkin filling. If you have extra dough, feel free to cut them into shapes and place these shapes on the top of the filling.

Place the pie(s) in the oven and bake at 450°F for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to 325°F and bake for another 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the pie comes out clean. Sometimes this takes longer than 45 minutes. Don't panic.

Check on the pie every now and again. If the crust is getting too dark, place some foil around the edges to protect it from the heat. I usually have to do this, and it's not a problem.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Pumpkin pie is best when set, and in order for it to do that it needs to cool a bit.


Fry, Bake, Sautée, Dress, Marinate, Grill and Roast a Pumpkin

Just in time for your Thanksgiving preparations, we bring to you our ULTIMATE PUMPKIN GUIDE (did you hear an echo?)! 

I produced this for Colavita as an Olive Oil Guide. The Olive Oil Guide is a seasonal quarterly that offers healthy recipes (well, we do stick a fry recipe in there...) based around one seasonal ingredient. This season's special ingredient is.... PUMPKIN.

Within the pages of this magazine, you will find recipes that instruct you on grilling, frying, roasting, sautéeing, baking, dressing, and marinating with pumpkin and pumpkin parts.

They are all delicious (I should know, I personally tested them). One of my favorites is the glamorous cover recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes:

You can also watch a short instructional video here:

Other highlights include Pumpkin Marinated Chicken:

And a very handy-dandy chart on how to replace butter with heart-healthy olive oil in your recipes:

Colavita is also running a contest in conjunction with this pumpkin recipe book. You can learn all about it on Facebook, but you can win a trip to that's pretty cool.

Download the full recipe book here, and HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!



An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 3

This is the third and final installment of Creating an Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto.

So far, we've covered bread and where to buy it, given you olive recommendations – including a recipe for marinated olives, and also made some cheese selections.

Now we move onto the fruit and crazy....I mean fruit and nuts. Because it's gonna get kinda...nuts, that is.

Are you following me? Most likely not. 

If you still are with me (bless your souls), we are going to focus on figs. At this time of year, fig season is starting to wind down. It closes in around December and then you won't see the little guys until June, so in order to give them a proper send off, I suggest you eat all the fresh ones you can. 

WHAAAT? Can't find fresh ones, you say? This is indeed sad, but not tragic, as the dried ones are quite juicy and will be a welcome addition to any antipasto.

If you can locate fresh figs, I suggest toasting them up a bit. You can do this easily in a frying pan with a little water and brown sugar. Here's how:

What You Need:

1 basket fresh, ripe figs. Ripe figs will be slightly soft to the touch. If they are too firm, they're not ready yet. You can use either Black Mission Figs, or White figs, which actually look green.

1-2 Tablepoons brown sugar

2 Tablespoons water

What To Do:

Using a knife, cut the figs in half.

Heat a frying pan on your stove top over medium heat. Pour in the water and sprinkle in the brown sugar. Allow it to heat up a bit, but don't let it burn. Prevent burning by stirring with a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula.

Add the figs and let them soak up the sugary juices for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a small bowl.

Serve along side the above-mentioned bread, olive and cheese. Add in some roasted chestnuts (you can purchase them pre-roasted, or use our recipe here), freshly made cranberry sauce. I make a wonderful (if I do say so myself) Orange Spiced Cranberry Sauce. If you'd like to make it too, here's how to do it:

What You Need:

12 ounce bag of cranberries

1/2 cup of honey

2-3 T firmly packed brown sugar

2 three inch cinnamon sticks

6 whole cloves

1/4 tsp grated nutmeg

3/4 cup water

Half an orange or tangerine

What To Do:

Cut the orange into wedges and pierce the outer skin with 3 whole cloves a piece.

In a saucepan, combine the cranberries, honey, brown sugar, cinnamon sticks, cloves stuck in orange wedges, nutmeg and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally for 5-10 minutes or until the cranberries have burst and the mixture is thickened. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and let it cool. Can be made 2 days in advance, covered and chilled.


An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 2

Did you know Calamata olives are Greek? They are.

In order to properly continue our platter in Italian fashion (started with bread), we need to have Italian olives. I chose two different types as they are polar opposites in the olive department, taste-wise.

The first are large, Cerignola olives. Green, meaty and mild, these are almost like eating a small almost-ripe nectarine in texture. They are slightly salty, but hover at a 2 on the 1-10 ranking of saltiness (10 being the most salty).

My second choice were small Sicilian olives. These little devils are pitted and punchy on the saltiness scale, ranking at an 8 in my book.

Side note: I don't know if there are any other "books" on ranking relative olive saltiness. I'm just telling you how I feel about it.

I chose them because I wanted one salty olive and one mild to pair with some other items I've got coming your way, notably cheeses, fruit and nuts.

Now, you could stop here. Throw these olives in a bowl and have on it with. Or you could take it one step further...and marinate.

I chose to marinate (of course I did). Here's how you do it:

What You Need (also listed in the above artwork):

2 cups mixed olives (your choice, but you should really take my recommendation...)

Half an orange, quartered and thinly sliced into wedges

Half a cup extra virgin olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 Tablespoon chili oil (optional)

2 bay leaves

A sprinkle of red pepper flakes

What You Do:
Place the mixed oil-packed olives in a bowl with the orange. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine the extra-virgin olive oil, garlic cloves, chili oil (if using), bay leaves, and the red pepper flakes. Cook until fragrant and garlic begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from heat and let steep for 1 hour. Pour oil mixture over olives and stir to coat. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours, or cover and chill up to 4 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Based on a recipe from Bon Appetit.

Now don't run away so fast! I'd like to give you two cheese options to pair with these fabulous olives. I suggest you obtain a Robiola Bosina, which is a soft, almost Brie-ish in consistency cheese. It's a mix of goat and cow milk, so the goat-cheesy flavor on this variety is mild.

I also recommend a Pecorino Foglie di Noce, slightly soft but very salty, this cheese is such a treat, I can hardly compliment it enough! It's fabulous with a little honey, or orange marmalade on top.

Both of these cheeses pair well with the olives, marinated or no.

So, let's recap:

First, toast some BREAD.

Then get some olives and MARINATE.

Have some honey and/or orange marmalade (the orage flavor will be fabulous with the citrus in the olive marinade)

And stand by for Part the THIRD...coming soon.


An Italian Thanksgiving Antipasto - Part 1

Our family antipasto platter typically does not include bread. It is usually a collection of meats, cheeses and marinated or roasted vegetables.

But I'd like to update our traditional Iaciofano antipasto platter to incorporate Italian-focused selections that speak to the season and the Thanksgiving holiday.

A platter like this needs a strong foundation – a foundation on which the other elements must rely...and lay...on top of...

And so, we begin with bread. Bread is what's needed. The foundation of food, this is where we begin.

Baguettes, ciabatta, large rounds...even a focaccia – these are all suitable choices for such a platter. Slice them thinly on a bias (except for focaccia which warrants small poofy squares) and lightly toast them for a little crunch. They will be the perfect foundation on which to place...well, I'll get to that later.

First, let's carb up. Here are some of my NY/NJ metro bakeries where I purchase my bread:

Macedonia Brothers Bakery in the Bronx. Come for a semolina, stay for their prosciutto round.

Callandra's locations in in Fairfield, Newark and Caldwell, New Jersey. I like the thinly sliced round loaves.

Hot Bread Kitchen - Seasonal Focaccia is always a treat, and their semolina has a nice, thick crust.

Eli's Bread at Zabar's (and other locations) - sometimes when you walk in they give away fresh out of the oven samples. Worth it even if you don't come home with a loaf.

Agata and Valentina - new(ish) downtown location!

Amy's Bread - another excuse for me to visit Chelsea Market, or the equally dangerous Bleecker Street...

Citarella has a nice bakery section, and various New York locations.

And let's not forget Balthazar....perhaps you should make a pilgrimage to their Englewood Bakery Extravaganza?

Out in the 'burbs? Our very own Morristown King's has a pretty decent bakery with a wide selection of fresh bread and artisinal crackers.

Sullivan Street Bakery - For a healthier option, I like the whole wheat loaf. Softest inner bread and a tangy crust. 

Perhaps you would like to make your own? Our recipe for focaccia is here.